Miami seems to be the perfect location for biking- with fresh Atlantic air, palm trees and sunshine, nothing could be better. Add heavy metropolitan traffic and narrow roads, however, and the conditions for the sport become questionable.
Nestled in Coral Gables, UM lies adjacent to U.S. 1, a six-lane highway that separates students from a host of restaurants, shops and grocery stores. Many students only use bikes on campus and find other ways to travel outside UM.
While bike travel does have its conveniences, students find biking in Miami challenging.
For junior Mike Viklund, using a bike on campus is not a problem. Viklund biked to class from his off-campus residence, but relied on his roommate, who had a car, for rides to the grocery store.
“It was fine except for when it rained,” he said, noting some failed attempts to ride with an umbrella.
Another common issue with cycling and walking safety concerns headphones and cell phones. Students who bike on campus know how difficult it is to pass a walker listening to headphones or text messaging who will not necessarily notice an approaching bike.
Chances are many campus cyclists have cut it close when passing walkers, while walkers know the startling feeling of being narrowly missed by a speeding bike.
Viklund avoids this trouble when he bikes to class.
Instead of riding through throngs of people on the sidewalks, “I’d park and walk once I got to campus,” he said.
Students who brave the roads off-campus should be aware of traffic conditions.
Florida’s Department of Highway Safety recently released information listing Miami-Dade as the top county for bicycle incidents.
In July, a car hit Michael Lum, a UM student and avid cyclist. Lum, 20, was cycling near U.S. 1 and 17th avenue, and the impact placed him in a trauma center where he underwent surgery.
WVUM “The Voice,” Miami’s on-campus radio station, put on a benefit concert to raise money to support Lum’s family and help pay for the surgery. Local bands performed after the Miami Critical Mass bike ride.
“You could tell that it was all young people,” Robertson said.
There was also a table set up to collect donations for Lum’s family.
As of July 27, Lum was out of the hospital and recovering.
According to Florida policy, bikes are treated as vehicles. As such, students who bike frequently on and off campus should be aware of how traffic laws apply. Cyclists should wear a helmet at all times, obey road signs and lights and use a front light in the dark.
Nevertheless, accidents occur, so the best thing students can do is educate themselves.
Robertson spoke of the large population of cyclists in Miami, but expressed concern regarding riding in the city.
“It’s so dangerous that you end up not being able to,” she said.
Recently, the university introduced the BikeSafe program to contend with the high numbers of bicycle accidents in Miami. The program strives to educate students on the laws of riding and ways to avoid crashes.
Jamie Caulkins, coordinator of the program, said that the course was geared towards information on commuting to campus.
“For a lot of people there are barriers to bike riding,” Caulkins said, so the purpose of the course is to teach students and employees rules of the road and tips to avoid collisions.
BikeSafe does not have a course firmly scheduled for this semester, but Caulkins hopes to arrange one, possibly with the help of the Commuter Students’ Association.
“We could have reached out to them in a bigger way,” he said. He hopes to evolve the course to include a short bike route around campus so participants can practice applying aspects of the course.
BikeSafe also conducts county-wide prevention courses in association with Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation.
Dana Hatic may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Florida Department of Highway Safety Statistics 2009
|State of Florida